Animal Cruelty – how to find the balance you need when you work in an emotionally challenging industry

Baby elephant on Koh Samui, Thailand

I am in my second year of University, studying Animal Welfare.  And I am often baffled at how the word “Welfare” actually made it into the title, because some days it seems I see so little of it – I think I am perhaps studying the ABSENCE of it.  And when you are in an industry, because of a strong driving love for those you are trying to care for, their abuse and suffering can be a very heavy load to bear.  And I am no saint.  I have dark days (and sometimes even months) where I conjure up all sorts of dire acts of revenge that I would like to dish out to my fellow humans.

But then I remind myself that I didn’t get into this industry to take my love away from humans, and give it to the animals.  Surely, the well of love is big enough to find enough inside of me for both.  And I don’t want to lose the love I have for my fellow man in this process – and yet sometimes, I feel like I come very close to losing it entirely.   So I have to work very hard to maintain a balance.  And it isn’t easy.

Some fellow animal advocates were talking about how difficult it can be some days to not actually ‘hate’ other humans, and I shared these thoughts with them.  If you also work in the animal industry, and have days of darkness, I hope these words can bring you some comfort and guidance to come back to a place of light.  The animals need you.  And the animals feel your love, so don’t ever let those people on the planet who haven’t yet found enough love in their own lives, steal yours away!!   Here is what I shared with them today…..

Ah, yes, I have been in that place of dark hatred many many times – and I still go there, often.  But believe it or not, I have found a way to ‘understand’ my fellow humans.  And I work very hard on finding a place in myself where I can also forgive them.  And it is so incredibly hard, and some days I just get so damned angry that there is no forgiveness inside me.  But them I quieten back down, breathe deeply, and hit the meditation pillow again.  And rather than ask – “why do they do that” – I imagine that I am that person.   I try to find that place of ‘Oneness’, rather than ‘Separation’ (that is the core of all the world’s problems).  I try to imagine/understand their background, what has happened to them, influenced them – remembering that they may not have had my education, or been exposed to the things I have in my life.  And I try to imagine – “how could I have done that”“What messed up way of thinking did I fall victim to, to act this way”?   And as strange as it may sound, I become flooded with answers.  I feel the gaps in their lives, the sadness, the desperation.  The stories they have been told, and that they have brought into that have shaped the lives they live.

And then, I come back to the one thing I truly believe – and that is simply this – I believe that when we die, it isn’t ‘God’ in heaven who judges us – I believe it is US, who judge ourselves.  From a place of pure love, where our ego has completely disintegrated – and I imagine we must be utterly appalled with our actions at that point, if we haven’t gone through a major process in this life of changing things – if we’ve wallowed in ignorance or been too ‘lazy’ to care or make the effort to change the world around us.  If our ego has totally over-ridden our heart.

And I think we judge ourselves very, very harshly indeed.  So that gets me thinking even more – and  then I wonder if the suffering we see in the world, is in fact, the manifestation of all of that shame – that we actually ASK and WANT to come back here and suffer to pay for our past sins. (A sort of self-directed Karma if you will).

So, I could then be very cynical and say “well, let them all suffer – they are probably right, they absolutely deserve it”.  But then I remember, I too am human.  I too have made very poor choices at times.  And I am sure will in the future too, sometimes not even intentionally knowing the suffering I might cause to another.  I was born into a culture (white European) for which I feel immense shame for the many things that have been perpetrated by ‘my people’ in history.  In the name of Elitism, in the name of Eugenics.  I have born that shame very deeply at times.

And I could just say – hey, it wasn’t actually ME that did that, and anyway, I can just let it all play out, it can’t all be my responsibility – but then the cycle just goes on and on and on.

Instead, as hard as it is, I sit with the horror and disgust, and rather than push it out of my mind, or fight it – I let my soul take it on board, and I just end up feeling deep, unending sadness for every single soul involved in this circus called life.  And I wish I had the power and capacity to forgive every single one of them – because then, maybe it could stop? But, as hard as it can be at times – I really do find that forgiveness.  I found forgiveness for myself for my own bloodline, and I found it for my past eating habits.  And I find it, even in the times I truly doubt it will come, for those I perceive as the most vile and terrible people on the planet too.

And one by one, I process that, and I can only hope that that will be one soul who WON’T choose to come back and play a part in this disgusting suffering any more.  I then imagine the power that could be wrought if we could all find this forgiveness, and start spreading it outwards now.  The entire planet seems to be so desperately in need of it.

If I didn’t think these things – I’m pretty sure the hatred would have overwhelmed me by now, and all I would then succeed in doing is feeding the negativity and probably doing something insanely stupid like taking out a few misguided individuals, in my pursuit of justice.  And then losing my own life or sanity to the unconquerable despair.

And I’d be damned sure I was right in doing that too.  Until I died – and then found myself sitting there, ready to pass that judgement on my own life.  And I would see those people as the pure souls they actually are, underneath the covering of ‘personality’ they were born into.  And I would look at myself, in the space of pure and utter love.  And I know, with all the hatred gone – I wouldn’t be happy with the choice I made.

So, FORGIVENESS.

This is the only solution.  And when you get to a place where you can find it, I swear, it empowers you to create change in a way anger never can.  And when it gets really hard, and you think that forgiveness is unachievable – just go watch an abused animal reconnect with a human being – they are the EPITOME of forgiveness – and they might just be here to teach us to be the same!!!

I think it is in books, photography and music that I find the ability to reach this forgiveness plateau.  They are like lights at the end of long dark tunnels at times – and I need to revisit them often, and immerse myself in their beauty.  To keep the darkness at bay, and connect with the infinite flow of love that is buried within us all.  And I think it is important to reach out, to others who share your passion, and understand the depth of the grief that can accompany it.  Sometimes I feel very alone here, fighting the world in what sometimes seems such an un-winnable battle.  But then I meet one other person, who’s passion shines even more brightly than mine – and I am reminded – we may be spread far and wide, but we are an army, and we are strong, and we are a TEAM!!!   Together, we just may change the world.

So wherever it is you find your peace, visit it often.  I hope it can bring you comfort too, so that the darkness doesn’t overwhelm you.  Remember – the animals need you, and I am very proud to be on your team!!!

© Michele Harrod 05.11.2012

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